The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale

the-thicket-by-joe-r-lansdaleI started reading The Thicket in mid-December of 2014 and finished it this morning before work. It was one of the best reads of last year and 2015 will be hard pressed to deliver a better one as well.

Joe R. Lansdale has been one of those authors that I keep hearing about and keep planning to read. (There are a lot of you out there.) I finally dropped the hammer on a short story of his included in Rogues.

rogues coverRogues is a short story collection edited by one of my favorite Fantasy authors George R.R. Martin. It is a fantastic read and includes an interesting collection of authors of various genres and some really great stories. His story in this collection featured his characters Hap and Leonard. From Dead_Aim_by_Joe_R_Lansdale_Trade_Coverthere I found his novella Dead Aim also featuring this memorable duo.

While searching for something else to read by Lansdale I heard about Cold In July but wasn’t able to find a copy. It was then that I stumbled upon The Thicket. I am not really big on reading westerns, but when I saw the back description, I knew I had to give it a try.

A tale of love and vengeance at the dark dawn of the East Texas oil boom from award-winning novelist Joe Lansdale

Jack Parker thought he’d already seen his fair share of tragedy. His grandmother was killed in a farm accident when he was barely five years old. His parents have just succumbed to the smallpox epidemic sweeping turn-of-the-century East Texas—orphaning him and his younger sister, Lula.

Then catastrophe strikes on the way to their uncle’s farm, when a traveling group of bank-robbing bandits murder Jack’s grandfather and kidnap his sister. With no elders left for miles, Jack must grow up fast and enlist a band of heroes the likes of which has never been seen if his sister has any chance of surviving. But the best he can come up with is a charismatic, bounty-hunting dwarf named Shorty, a grave-digging son of an ex-slave named Eustace, his constant companion a 600-pound feral hog, and a street-smart woman-for-hire named Jimmie Sue who’s come into some very intimate knowledge about the bandits (and a few members of Jack’s extended family to boot).

In the throes of being civilized, East Texas is still a wild, feral place where oil wells spurt liquid money from the ground. And Jack will soon find out that blood and redemption rule supreme. In The Thicket, Joe R. Lansdale lets loose like never before, in a rip-roaring adventure equal parts True Grit and Stand by Me—the perfect introduction to an acclaimed writer whose work has been called “as funny and frightening as anything that could have been dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm—or Mark Twain” (New York Times Book Review).

One review called it “Hellish and hilarious.” I would have to agree, not to mention anything with a bounty hunting dwarf, a whore, and a giant hog as main characters is something I want to read. Also, the half-black-half-white-half-Comanche Eustace steals many of the scenes in this dark and funny novel.

By the end, you will realize that the story is less about the narrator Jack and the trouble he finds himself in and more about the characters around him and what makes them who they are. As Jack learns their stories, he learns about himself and the how he will mark his own way in a hard and often bloody world where doing the right thing isn’t necessarily the best thing.

For me the best scene is where the unlikely posse comes to a trading post to confront Fatty, one of kidnappers. Eustace, Hog, and Shorty produce one of the most comical confrontations I have ever read.

With The Thicket has produced a story that is wickedly funny as well as being a very dark and violent thriller. It is the story that all big Hollywood Westerns are trying to make and ultimately fall short of. In fact, I learned today after posting that exact comment on Facebook that The Thicket is slated to be made into a movie with Peter Dinklage signed on in the role of Shorty.Peter Dinklage Hopefully the film will stay true to Lansdale’s original vision. If they do, I can’t wait to see it.

 http://variety.com/2014/film/news/peter-dinklage-thicket-gianni-nunnari-1201310818/

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